National Statistics Board
Venue: Department of the Taoiseach
Date: Tuesday 30th June, 2015
The following Board members attended:
Dr. Patricia O’Hara (Chairperson), Ms. Rowena Dwyer, Dr. Helen Johnston, Mr. Gerard O’Neill, Mr. John McCarthy and Mr. Pádraig Dalton.
Mr. Joe Treacy, Dr. Lucy Fallon-Byrne, Mr. Richard McMahon and Ms. Jennifer Banim (CSO Senior Management) were also in attendance.
Ms. Claire Hanley acted as Secretary.
Apologies: Mr. Tom Geraghty, Mr. John Callinan
The minutes of the previous meeting were agreed.
The Director General briefed the Board on a number of recent developments within CSO and at European level.
System of Health Accounts
The first transmission of the 2013 summary results for health expenditure on the new SHA basis were transmitted to the OECD on 5 June, with transmission of the back series planned for mid-July. National publication is planned for September/October 2015.
Sector Allocation of Irish Water
The CSO has sent the necessary information and documentation to Eurostat who will make the final sector classification decision of Irish Water. The CSO met Eurostat on 12 June to discuss the case for classification and to go through the information and documentation submitted. A final decision from Eurostat is expected in July.
Treatment of Aircraft leasing in Ireland’s External Trade, Balance of Payments and National Accounts Statistics
Due to amendments to the regulations governing External Trade statistics, the recording of purchases and sales of aircraft and ships has moved to a change of economic ownership basis. The change in the basis for recording this type of trade means that purchases of aircraft by aircraft leasing companies resident in Ireland will now be recorded in Ireland’s imports of goods statistics.
The Board noted the effect of the new treatment on the External Trade balance, the BOP Current Account Balance and National Accounts statistics. All three publications are due for release in July 2015.
New Monthly Unemployment Estimates
The CSO, on 3 June 2015, published a new series of monthly unemployment estimates for May 2015 which provided more detailed and timely Labour Market statistics. These new estimates are primarily based on the Quarterly National Household Survey (QNHS) and replace the seasonally adjusted Standardised Unemployment Rate (SUR) as the definitive measure of monthly unemployment which will no longer be published with the Live Register.
A new series of statistics on job vacancies was introduced as part of the Earnings, Hours and Employment Costs Survey release.
The Board welcomed the recent introduction of the new series of unemployment estimates and job vacancies by the CSO.
The publication of recorded crime statistics by the CSO, resumed on 30 June 2015 with results for Q3 2014, Q4 2014 and Q1 2015 accompanied by a detailed analysis of a number of the issues raised by the Garda Inspectorate in the report Investigating Crime published in November 2014.
The CSO is chairing an expert group which is examining the recommendations on crime statistics contained in the Garda Inspectorate Report. This group is reviewing crime counting, crime recording and crime detections rules, having regard to best practice in comparable jurisdictions.
The CSO is launching a Crime and Victimisation survey as part of the Quarterly National Household Survey on 01 July 2015 with results expected by the end of March 2016.
The Board welcomed the resumption of the publication of recorded crime statistics by the CSO and discussed the difficulties faced by statistical organisations in relation to under-reporting and reclassification of crimes.
Household Survey Development Project
An important element of the HSD project is the transition of the Quarterly National Household Survey to a predominantly telephone survey (CATI - Computer Assisted Telephone Interview). The QNHS will be known as the Labour Force Survey from 2017 onwards and the first publication based on the new environment will be in Q1 2017.
Use of Mobile Phone Data for Tourism Statistics
The Administrative Data Centre (ADC) in the CSO is involved in a project to use mobile phone data to compile regional tourism statistics and has worked closely with the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) and the Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) for the past four years to build a consensus around the legal basis for this data collection.
Due to a recent formal opinion by the DPC that the project would be in contravention of e-Privacy legislation from their perspective, the CSO has suspended work temporarily on this project and is considering the next steps to take with respect to collecting data of this nature.
The Board discussed the implications of the position taken by the DPC and the balance between accessing data for statistical purposes while remaining cognisant of public concerns around the use of such data.
Global Big Data Summit in Cork on the Future of CSO/ICHEC Sandbox
A platform, known as the “Sandbox”, which provides a shared data processing environment for statistical organisation around the world was launched in Dublin in March 2014 at the UNECE MSIS conference. The CSO and the Irish Centre for High-End Computing (ICHEC) collaborated to provide a technical platform to load Big Data sets and tools. CSO hosted a UNECE-led sprint to decide on the future direction of the sandbox and this took place from 22-24 June 2015.
Delivery of CSO 2020 strategy and associated projects continues and is supported by the new Transformation Division and the Transformation Programme Board. The key priority is to undertake a prioritisation exercise which will take place in September 2015.
A new IT Governance Board has been established which will deal with CSO wide IT transformation including planning for Census 2021.
In relation to dissemination/multi-theme reporting, a working group is exploring options for developing visualisation capability in the CSO and preparation of a 1916 commemorative publication continues.
A pilot of the Civil Service Employee Engagement Survey involving 1000 civil servants across departments and grades has been completed. The results of are being analysed and the survey questionnaire is being revised with a view to gaining approval by all Secretaries General in July.
The Board welcomed the initiatives discussed under corporate matters and requested that further discussion take place on completion of the prioritisation exercise in September. The CSO will brief the Board at the next meeting on the selected actions for delivery.
Irish Government Statistical Service
CSO has started discussions with DPER on the establishment of the Irish Government Statistical Service, exploring the potential for synergies with the existing IGEES units, while emphasising the legal requirement for the statistical service to be directly accountable to the Director General of the CSO on statistical matters. Part of this proposal includes methodological support for IGSS and the possibility of a data lab to facilitate data matching, both centrally located in CSO. The next step for CSO is to develop a proposal on IGSS for the Civil Service Management Board.
The Board regards this as a positive development, which it had already suggested, as a way of strengthening the Irish Statistical System and giving effect to the coordination role of the DG of the CSO.
IGEES Secondments to CSO to Deliver Horizontal Outputs (pilot)
IGEES have indicated that they are likely to have two AO Economists to work in CSO on horizontal cross theme projects. CSO has put forward proposals in the areas of employment, earnings and national accounts.
The Board welcomed these secondments as a positive step in the development of the Irish Statistical System.
Launch of “New Look” CSO Website
The CSO website has been updated and the new version is due to go live on the week commencing 17 August 2015. The main purpose of the upgrade is to comply with responsive design standards which allow the website to be easily accessed across both desktop and mobile platforms.
A new PO, has been appointed as Head of HR and Finance. A recent EO competition was held and received very good feedback from external interview panels on the quality of CO candidates in the CSO.
A competition for statistician/data analyst is underway through PAS. The uptake was less than expected and deadline for submission of applications was extended. CSO are actively engaging with universities and social media to increase the uptake.
Work is underway to develop a strategic workforce planning approach in the CSO and a consultant is being sought to assist with this work during the months of July and August.
The Board discussed the continued difficulty in recruiting Statisticians due to market competition and the growing need to recruit specialists such as Data Scientists.
Joe Treacy (CSO) presented the recommendations from the 2015 European Statistics Code of Practice peer review. There were twenty six recommendations in the report which identified four broad issues: strengthening the CSO’s coordination role and the infrastructure for official statistics, advance process-orientated statistical system with a strong quality management element, enhancing user orientation, and improving monitoring of use of resources.
The Board discussed the recommendations contained in the ES COP peer review report with particular emphasis on the coordination role of the CSO, the need for the development of a data infrastructure, the need for staff training on data quality and the recommendation to seek out user needs more systematically by way of a user satisfaction survey.
As part of the ES CoP peer review process, the CSO will publish an Implementation Plan by end-July 2015 which will be discussed at the next meeting of the Board.
Joe Treacy (CSO) presented the recently enacted Regulation (EU) 2015/759 amending Regulation (EC) No 223/2009 which assigns responsibility to the head of the NSI for European statistics produced by other national authorities. In effect, this means that CSO has become responsible at national level for coordinating statistical programming and reporting, quality monitoring, methodology, data transmission and communication of all European statistics produced within Ireland, regardless of which department or agency produces them.
The Board discussed the implications of this amendment for the CSO and the wider Irish Statistical System. They welcomed the development but stressed the need for adequate resources to be put in place to allow CSO to effectively carry out its obligation under the new Regulation.
Pat O’Hara has been appointed to the Government Data Forum, the first meeting of which will be held 14 July 2015.
The next meeting of the Board will take place on October 7, 2015 at the Department of the Taoiseach.